Show Us Your Space: Los Angeles' Decibel Studios
Welcome to the latest addition of our Show Us Your Space series, where we explore and celebrate the unique music-making environments of studio owners, independent builders, and musicians at all levels. Today, we're getting a virtual tour of an upstart Los Angeles studio ready to bring a slice of the city's local music to the world.
Jesus Martinez. All photos courtesy of Decibel Studios.
Decibel Studios was founded in 2017 by Jesus Martinez, a producer-engineer from Los Angeles, California. At a young age Martinez began to play the requinto—a unique tenor guitar with Latin roots and a classical background—under his father’s instruction. Later on he studied at Berklee College of Music, finishing with a BA in production and engineering. In 2011, he became a member of Tres Souls, a Latin trio embracing the sounds of the 1940s' bolero genre.
Jesus began Decibel Studios during the creation of a Tres Souls EP. As a producer, his unique sound combines the classic folk sound of Cuba while adding electric guitars with Strymon’s Big Sky reverb. Inspired by hip-hop production, he'll also, from time to time, sample sounds from movies from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.
The studio focuses on recording and arranging regional Mexican music as well as Latin guitar. Looking to capture what he calls the authentic sounds of LA, Jesus has worked extensively with local mariachis and songwriters in the East LA area.
Keep reading to hear straight from Jesus about his studio and work.
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Los Tres Reyes Requinto (Homenaje A Los Tres Reyes)
Here at Decibel Studios we have added custom-made sound panels to eliminate sound reflections bouncing off walls. Each panel is equipped with Rockwool Rockboard 80. This is a premium, multi-purpose stone wool insulation board used for acoustic treatment.
When it comes to preamps, the BAE 1073 is one of the most sought-out pres. It is handwired, transformer-coupled, and pure Class A. My favorite use for it is vocals. Paired with a nice tube mic you get a creamy smooth vocal.
Having a workstation that helps you be productive is essential for creating in any field really. The Output Platform desk does just that by having your gear at arms reach while being stylish—and it's sturdy. And did I mention the great price compared to these other desk making companies?
Having this be my first piece of gear by SSL, I’m beginning to see why they're one of the top pro audio companies. The Fusion is a master bus processor filled with goodies: vintage drive, violet EQ, high frequency compressor, and stereo imager. What has surprised me the most is how much this piece of gear brings out the vocal in the mix, making it sound intimate.
What good is having the best gear in the world if you can’t hear it? When it came to monitors I was intrigued with the Dynaudio LYD 48s and its three-way speaker system. When I put them up against Focal Solo6 Be, the LYD’s felt more accurate in the midrange and gave me a wider stereo image.
The AMS 1073 is the newest preamp in the studio and it has been blowing my mind. What really stands out to me with this pre is using them on classical guitars. The guitars just sit well in the mix from the beginning. Along with the AKG C414 it gives the guitar a full sound that warms the soul.
There’s nothing like having the right compressor! Elysia Audio did an amazing job with the Xpressor 500. With its parameters it is excellent from vocals to mix bus.
Having a V13 in your tool box is a beautiful thing. I've put the V13 up against mics that are $3,000 or more, and boy, does it hold up. It gives the singing voice a presence that is natural in every way. Along with its nine polar patterns, it is very versatile. One of my favorite things to experience is when artists first hear their voice through a V13, it's always a wow factor in the studio.
The AKG C414 was my first pro mic in the studio. This is one of those mics that can do it all. I once recorded a full song with it; vocals, guitar, requinto, bongos, congas, maracas, udu, and chime. And let me tell you it sounded really good on all of those instruments.
Having a palette of colors in the studio is essential. I have chose the C414 (condenser), V13 (tube), and AEA R84 (ribbon). Come by and paint some art.
Small diaphragm mics are awesome to capture the natural sound of an acoustic instrument. But the Soyuz Microphones FET 013 takes that to the next level. Even when compared with the famous Neumann 184s, they are not harsh in the highs.
This unique instrument is called a requinto. It is tuned like a 6-string ukulele and is used in bolero music. This specific requinto was designed for my father in 1989 by Candelas Guitars in Boyle Heights, LA. I learned how to play requinto under my father's instruction and I am honored to continue this music.